A horrendous Saturday for bubble teams culminated a few minutes ago with yet another upset when New Mexico State took down Utah State for the WAC crown. Now the red Aggies get the automatic bid, and the blue Aggies, presumed safe as an at-large (despite some outside opinion to the contrary), will take up yet another precious bracket spot.
This makes two things very clear: 1) Mississippi State needs to win the SEC title tomorrow, and 2) There are very few at-large spots left. That leaves teams like Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, Cal and Virginia Tech very, very concerned tonight.
We'll have a last look at the bubble teams and a fresh bracket in the morning and a finalized bracket late afternoon.
This has been a very bad day for bubble teams hoping for at-large bids. The trend continued with Washington's Pac-10 final win over Cal and San Diego State's Mountain West championship victory at UNLV. That means two teams that were just on the right side of the cutline just hours ago are in automatically, which also means two fewer spots for the bubble. I say "could" because while UNLV is certain to dance, removing one spot, it's not clear whether Cal will survive as an at-large. The Golden Bears will get some injury consideration for a couple of early nonleague losses and won the Pac-10; but in such a down year, Cal's 15-6 overall Pac-10 mark doesn't rate any better in the computers than going 11-7 or so in the ACC. Cal has every "intangible" advantage to make it -- a title in a traditional power conference, the look of a solid team when healthy, the fact that they tried to schedule some good teams and played very few poor ones -- but the truth is that they haven't done anything to actually deserve an NCAA spot.
Mix in Minnesota's destruction of Purdue and Illinois' strong showing against Ohio State, and all of this is very bad news for teams like Florida and Virginia Tech. If Utah State loses tonight or Mississippi State beats Kentucky tomorrow to force its way in, it could be lights out for a couple of these teams.
Mississippi State and Georgia Tech both took another step toward the NCAAs by making the SEC and ACC finals, respectively. How safe either is, though, is still up for debate. It will depend on results later tonight (Utah State in the WAC and the Cal/Washington Pac-10 final) and how each team does tomorrow.
Georgia Tech is in much stronger position after holding off NC State, having started the day in the bracket and with a sounder resume despite the under .500 regular-season ACC mark. Now they get a shot at Duke in the final to do it the auto-bid way. If they show well in that game and strange things don't happen elsewhere, it looks like they'll get there.
Mississippi State very well may need to beat Kentucky and get the automatic bid. Beating Vandy and Florida on consecutive days arguably stand as MSU's two best wins has all season, depending on how you consider a neutral-site win over Old Dominion. With some bad losses as demerits and a weakish resume, the Bulldogs may not be able to survive an SEC final loss.
Rhode Island became the latest bubble team presumably to fall short of the NCAAs, losing a
In the Big Ten, Illinois, which
Houston pulled the upset in the Conference USA final,
If Saturday morning's bracket was accurate, that means Minnesota is pushed out of the field. That makes it even more imperative that the Golden Gophers take out Purdue later today, and for teams like Rhode Island and Mississippi State to keep winning if they want to make the NCAAs. It also tightens things further for teams like Virginia Tech, Washington and Florida, who are barely in the field.
Minnesota, Mississippi State, Washington, Georgia Tech and Rhode Island won really important games on Friday and continue to push for at-large spots. While none are locks yet, they all certainly took strong steps forward and have chances today to gain various levels of security.
Who's now sweating? Florida and Virginia Tech made potentially costly missteps while teams like Mississippi and Dayton probably sealed their fates with tourney losses.
All bubblers also want the following to happen: -- Utah State to win the WAC over New Mexico State -- UTEP to win C-USA over Houston -- Duke to win the ACC (preferably over NC State after the Wolfpack beats Georgia Tech)
If all of those things happen, the bubble will stay as large as it is now. Any of the favorites in those leagues lose, and one of the cutline squads will get chopped.
Here are Saturday's important bubble/bracket games:
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Duke keeps pushing toward a No. 1 seed although the Blue Devils now face Miami, which won't do anything for them except maybe make advancing easier. Maryland's loss to Georgia Tech might cap the Terps at a fifth seed. Clemson and FSU will be mid-bracket seeds.
Kansas moves into the Big 12 final and surely is a top seed -- and likely the No. 1 overall seed. The Jayhawks get in-state rival K-State for a third time. Should be a good one. This league will get seven bids.
West Virginia edged Notre Dame to move into the Big East final and still has a shot at a No. 1 seed, but must beat surging Georgetown. Marquette and the Irish now wait to see their seeding bump. Louisville and Seton Hall wait to see if they make the field.
Purdue edged into the Big Ten semis, getting past Northwestern, but still hasn't looked very good without
Cal is in the Pac-10 finals and probably will get a bid win or lose at this point, even with its odd profile. Washington is right on the cutline at the moment and would be wise to win the final.
All three big guns won and head to the semis, where Kentucky and Tennessee will face off. Vanderbilt gets Mississippi State in a game the Bulldogs probably have to have. Otherwise, this could possibly be a three-bid league, although Florida still is hanging on to a bid.
The top three all made the semis. Now it's up to Rhode Island to see if the league can get four teams into the NCAAs. Dayton's finally done after blowing yet another game it could have won.
Old Dominion held off William & Mary for the CAA crown, and probably will be the only team in the NCAAs from this conference.
San Diego State took a huge step toward making this a four-bid league by beating league champ New Mexico in the semis. Now the Aztecs get the Host, UNLV, in the final. This looks pretty likely to be four bids either way, but SDSU would be wise to win the final to make sure.
UNI pulled away from Wichita State in the second half of the MVC final to nail down the title and remove any at-large doubt. Now Wichita State likely is headed to the NIT.
UTEP ripped past host Tulsa and is now an overwhelming favorite to beat Houston and make this a one-bid league. The Miners will be in either way now. It would be terrible to omit them with the bubble the way it looks.
Utah State shredded Louisiana Tech in the WAC semis and locks up a bid, win or lose in the WAC final. There's no way this team should miss with the bubble this bad. Butler, Saint Mary's and Gonzaga are in from earlier in the week.